As our car inched its way to the Charlotte Motor Speedway, I felt like we were in a scene from the movie Argo. Except there were no guns. Or no real threat of danger for that matter. Four of us rode in the shelter of our car through what felt like mobs and mobs of people, and everything looked foreign.
Loud music blared from tailgaters while celebratory laughter and conversation dodged in and out. Swarms of race fans made their way by foot from a mile away. Street corners boasted ticket scalpers as our car moved an inch at a time to our parking section.
A voice coming through a loudspeaker caused me to strain my eyes through the crowd to see where it was coming from. A man holding a microphone pacing back and forth. A lady sitting in a chair to his side. Tall speakers surrounding them like a hedge of protection.
The inflection of his voice hinted to his message. The rise and fall of his words, the passion that gave rise to the words. His motives were pure, I’m sure. His method? Well, it didn’t draw me in. Not only did his words not draw me in, they did the exact opposite. They caused me to cringe in my seat. To sink a little lower into the leather and want to hide my face.
As race fans rolled their coolers past his makeshift stage, his wagging finger and booming voice spoke of rules and not relationship. I never saw one person stop to hear the message he really wanted to share. The message that Jesus came and died for them. The message that they are loved and cherished. The message He came to save. Maybe he gave that message as well. I only heard a couple of minutes of his sidewalk sermon.
I can relate to the ones rolling the coolers down the sidewalk. A wagging finger never brought me closer. It made me hide my face and turn away in shame. But in His lovingkindness, He brought ones to me that didn’t wag a finger in my face and tell me where I’d burn if I didn’t turn away. Instead He brought the ones that told me of the place He was preparing for me and how One came to die so that I could be there with Him one day. They told of a love that was irresistible. It didn’t scream at me that I was a failure. It whispered, “I know this life is hard and temptation is great. So I’ve come to conquer it, so you can live in my power, not yours, and experience victory. Because I love you.”
When Jesus walked this earth, He didn’t wag fingers and guilt people towards Him. His love did all the work. He spoke in parables to communicate His messages. People were drawn to his stories. They found their place in the words He spoke. They saw who they were in his stories. His stories spoke love, redemption, kindness, and mercy. His patience and kindness draws us to him.
The same holds true for the ones in our lives. Our children, our parents, our friends, our neighbors. The ones He has placed in our lives. Our wagging finger will turn them away. I see it in my kids daily. When I’m preachy a look comes over their face. They no longer hear my heart behind the words. They hear the accusing words, and they shut down. But when I change my tactic, when I draw them in with kindness, hearts soften, ears open, and my words are invited in.
We can learn a lot from the sidewalk preacher and Jesus. When I parent my boys, I want to be like Jesus, not the sidewalk preacher. I want to gently draw them to me so they will be drawn to Him. When I speak to friends and family, I hope they see the patience of Jesus, not an accusing finger. I can’t think of a single time in my life someone’s wagging finger, accusing position, judgmental tone, or harsh criticism has ever caused a genuine shift in my heart.
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4
How about you? What are some ways you have felt drawn towards someone because they showed love and kindness?